New Norcia, Western Australia

New Norcia, Western Australia

New Norcia is a town in Western Australia, 132 km (82 miles) north of Perth, along the Great Northern Highway. It is situated next to the banks of the Moore River, in the Shire of Victoria Plains.

New Norcia is the only monastic town in Australia. A ground station for the European Space Agency is located 8 km south of the town .


On 1 March 1846, a Benedictine mission to the local aborigines was started about 8 km to the north, led by the two Spanish Benedictines, Rosendo Salvado and Joseph Serra. Within a year the mission was moved to where the town is today, and on 1 March 1847 the foundation stone of the monastery was laid. The place was named New Norcia, after Norcia in Italy, the birthplace of St Benedict. Unlike the Italian Norcia, which is pronounced "nor-chee-a", New Norcia is pronounced "new nor-sia".


The town of New Norcia has buildings in a Spanish style of architecture, along with some other historical sites. Among these are the two old boarding schools, St Ildephonsus' and St Gertrude's (both now used for accommodation and various social functions), the Abbey Church (containing the tomb of Rosendo Salvado), an old mill, a wine press, a hotel, and the monastery itself. Tours of the town operate daily. The Benedictine monks continue to occupy the town.


St Gertrude's was completed in 1908, and St Ildephonsus' was opened in 1913. Until 1964 inclusive, St Ildephonsus' was run by the Marist Brothers. From 1965 onwards, it was run by the Benedictines as St Benedict's College. In 1972, St Benedict's and St Gertrude's became co-educational, with the boys and girls sharing most of their lessons. In 1974, the two colleges became known jointly as Salvado College, but were still referred to individually as St Benedict's and St Gertrude's. In 1986, Salvado College became New Norcia Catholic College, which closed at the end of 1991.

There were also two aboriginal boarding schools; St Mary's (for boys) and St Joseph's (for girls), which closed in the early 1970s. The two buildings still exist. St Mary's is next to St Ildephonsus', and St Joseph's is next to St Gertrude's.

St Joseph's now houses the Museum and Art Gallery, which contains works by Australian and overseas artists, and displays describing the history of the area. The gallery is most noted for housing a painting by Raphael. In 1986, twenty six paintings were stolen by two robbers. Several weeks later, all but one of the stolen paintings were returned. They were badly damaged, but were eventually repaired.


New Norcia is famous for its bread, which was originally milled and baked in a wood-fired oven by the monks. It is still made in the town, and in the same way, but by New Norcia Bakeries, a private company operating under an agreement with the Benedictine Community.

Abbots of New Norcia

  • Rosendo Salvado 1867 - 1900 (died as abbot, aged 86 years)
  • Fulgentius Torres 1902 - 1914 (died as abbot, aged 53 years)
  • Anselm Catalan 1915 - 1951 (resigned) - died 1959, aged 80 years
  • Gregory Gomez 1951 - 1971 (resigned) - died 1995, aged 91 years
  • Bernard Rooney 1974 - 1980 (resigned)
  • Placid Spearritt 1997 - 2008 (died as abbot)

Friends of New Norcia

Following the closing of the schools in the early the 1990s the Benedictine community went through a crisis. There was serious concern as to how income and interest in the monastery might be sustained.

Following support for new projects and a move from a school supported community, the New Norcia Benedictine community was able to be supported by a project of the Friends of New Norcia. This organisation which has Australia wide and international membership and support - markets various publications, encouraged the usage of the visitors accommodation for retreats and events - as well as producing various books, events and special celebrations.


In one series of projects Abbot Placid Spearritt was involved in discussions with other leaders in other faiths and these became boxed sets of CD's (both were moderated by Frank Sheehan):

  • Two Abbotts Talk Abbot Placid Spearitt and Abbott Ajahn Brahm (of the Serpentine Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery of Western Australia) held in August 2005
  • The Abbott and The Sheikh Abbot Placid Spearitt and Sheikh Muhammad Agherdien (imam of Masjid al Taqwa, Mirrabooka Western Australia) held in August 2007

See also


Sources and External links

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